Fitness First: Helping a Heart Doctor Recover

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell March 15, 2016 07:38

weights and stethescope“Over Labor Day weekend I started feeling gas pressure above my abdomen. There was no chest pain, arm numbness, elephant-on-the-chest feeling or shortness of breath, which are the more common symptoms.”

The speaker should know. He’s Dr. Eugene Margolis, a cardiologist and internal medicine specialist for more than 50 years. And last September the 76-year-old Sonora doctor became the victim of a disease he had spent a career treating.

His gas pain continued through the holiday weekend, and Margolis on Tuesday told his Sierra Cardiology colleagues about his symptoms. “They evaluated me on the standard treadmill test, which led to suspicion of a problem. The next steps were a nuclear treadmill test and an angiogram.”

The treadmill test measures blood flow to the heart at rest and then during exertion; radioactive dye used in the nuclear test can reveal areas of low blood flow within the heart. In an angiogram, dye is injected into the heart’s blood vessels, followed by X-rays to locate any blockages.

“I did the angio without sedation, so I could see the major blockages it showed. I was quickly sent to Modesto via helicopter and underwent open-heart bypass surgery that evening.”

Seven weeks after surgery, Dr. Margolis joined Sonora Regional Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program, which helps patients recovering from bypass surgery, stenting, heart attack, angina, transplants, valve replacement or congestive heart failure.

Over 28 years, I have helped hundreds of patients, but he is the first cardiologist to complete the program. I thought his story, told from the viewpoint of both doctor and patient, would be worth sharing.

So I sat down with Gene, who has practiced in Sonora for 14 years, to discuss his experience:

Did you ever think this could happen to you? “I have been treated for hypertension (high blood pressure) for 30 years, and for hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) for 20. These are both primary risk factors. And when I was weighed right before surgery, I saw that I had gained an additional 10 pounds above the other 25 that had crept on over the past decades. This is what we call metabolic syndrome, a cluster of pre-heart-disease risk factors that can lead to blockages. So the answer is yes.”

How has cardiac rehabilitation helped you? “The regimen has helped me regain strength and has helped me restore a habit of regular exercise. I am now motivated to keep off the 30 pounds I lost while in the hospital, so I’m applying the principle of increased activity and eating less. Before this happened, I realized I wasn’t going up the stairs as quickly. I may not be as nimble as I once was, but the stairs are once again no problem. Amazing, but true: Today I feel better and take fewer medications than before surgery.”

What or who has helped you the most? “My wife, Marjorie, is my anchor. Having a partner who is supportive and helpful has been proven to help patients heal both physically and emotionally.”

When did you return to work? “I returned to work about three months after surgery.”

In your decades as a physician, what has changed most significantly? “A lot has changed, especially medications and diagnostics.”

What have you learned while being a patient? “Putting myself in a dependent position – following the guidelines of my care plan, like diet, medications and exercise – is very important. If you don’t, then you are minimizing your chances of full recovery. This includes making follow-up visits, taking medications correctly and following diet and exercise routines.”

It has been a privilege to be a part of Dr. Margolis’s recovery. He is a wonderful physician and his patients have really enjoyed his participation in Cardiac Rehab.

Gene and I agreed that the main things we can do to reduce heart attack risks are to maintain a healthy weight (your waist should be no bigger than your hips), don’t smoke, and exercise moderately for 30 minutes or more a day.

Krista Howell of Sonora works with cardiac patients and teaches senior fitness.

Copyright © 2016 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell March 15, 2016 07:38
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